Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fun with Mom in Kigali.

Sunday, July 17

Today was my first full day with Mom in Rwanda! When she found out I had been accepted to the study abroad program in March, she mentioned wanting to visit Africa and the possibility of meeting up with me somewhere on the continent. It took a while for us to nail down our plans, but we finally decided she would come to Kigali for a few days, then we would fly to Kenya to spend some time at a safari lodge in Amboseli National Park. That way, I could get my meaningful, educational experience in Rwanda, but I could still do the "touristy" things like look at animals!

After breakfast, we went to visit the Kigali Genocide Memorial Center. We also took Kiela (who didn't get to go with us the first Sunday) and Tyler and Lauren, who just wanted to revisit and spend some more time at the memorial. I didn't think I would want to go back inside, so I brought my book (No Future Without Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu that I checked out of the IGSC library) to sit outside and read. But once I got there, I ended up walking through the exhibits again because I wanted to point some things out to my mom (like the chain that Bea's brother had been buried with). I'm glad I went through it again because I noticed some different things this time.

Apparently, the first the time I went through, I missed all the good stories. There was not much good that occurred during the genocide (obviously), but the memorial center did have a room dedicated to honoring those people who had saved lives during the genocide. One of the most memorable stories was about Frodouald Karuhije, a Hutu who thought the RPF was going to kill him. He dug a trench to hide in, but once he realized the genocide was being committed against the Tutsi, not the Hutu, he used it to hide 14 Tutsis from the genocidaires. His daughter and niece also helped by preparing meals and taking them to the Tutsis in their hiding spot. Similarly, Damas Mutezintare Gisimba saved people who had been left alive in the mass graves.

I was so thankful I went back through the center after I read these stories, considering they were the only comforting part of the enter memorial. I also noticed more tragedy this time, however. Did you know the number of foreign troops used in the evacuation of diplomatic staff and foreign workers would have been sufficient to stop the genocide? Neither did I. Or that after the Security Council agreed to established UNAMIR II on May 17 (about seven weeks before the genocide finally ended), the U.S. took over a month to provide the 50 armored personnel carriers it had promised? The French weren’t blameless, either (as we well know). In fact, they were partially responsible for the massacre at Bisesero. Over 50,000 Tutsis were hiding in these hills, until the French troops told them it was safe to come out. The interahamwe were waiting for them, and only 1,000 Tutsis survived.

I lost my mom somewhere in the memorial rooms at the end of the timeline. When I found her outside, she was pretty ready to leave. “I can’t believe you’ve been doing this for two weeks,” she said. I assured her we were not always surrounded by so many gloomy memories. We had been visiting cultural centers, learning about the government and enjoying our new friendships with the Rwandan students. But it’s true; the two weeks were hard, especially after we got to hear the personal stories of our own acquaintances there, including one IGSC student whose parents and six brothers and sisters were murdered during the genocide.

It was time to move on, then, so we went back into the city in the hopes of finding Aroma CafĂ©, a small shop we had visited one night for dinner. Tyler remembered its general location, so we had the cab drop us off at a familiar hotel and we walked until we found it. On the way, we passed the open market, which I had promised to show my mother. After lunch (samosas and a milkshake for me – yum!), the other students walked back to the apartments while I took my mom to the market. The kids loved her blonde hair. They followed us constantly, asking us to visit their stalls and holding up vegetables and other goods for us to evaluate. My mom wasn’t as timid as I was when it came to taking pictures, so I finally got some good shots of the market:

We (and by we, I mean Mom) purchased some decorative baskets to hang on the wall at home and a couple wooden bangles for ourselves. (I chose yellow and black, to show my Mizzou spirit during the upcoming fall semester.) By then, the time difference (nine hours from San Francisco) was starting to hit Mom, so we headed back to the hotel for a short nap before the closing ceremony that night.

The closing ceremony had been changed to earlier (originally it was the end of the third week), so Kiela and I got out our fabric to fashion some togas. Unfortunately, my fabric was not two yards. I guess I got swindled at the market! I found a couple wrap styles that could have worked, but then I learned the girls who had gotten traditional clothes made hadn’t received the finished products yet. I went with a sundress instead, as it was easier to wear and I wouldn’t be the only one not in “African” clothing.

Dinner was at a nice outdoor restaurant – wine included. After eating, all the students shared a little bit of their experience in Rwanda. I kept it short and simple: “I am one of those people who’s leaving early, on Tuesday, but had I known the wonderful experiences I would have and all the people I would meet and how much I learn, I would have scheduled to stay a little bit longer. But I am grateful for everything I have learned so far, and thank you all for being a part of that. And I can’t wait to come back some day.”

And we got T-shirts!

Ours loosely say: "How are you?" and "I'm fine."

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